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Section 8 of the US Constitution says "The Congress shall have Power...To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization...." But US citizens who reside in a state are also citizens of the state. Also, naturalization is for people who are not citizens at birth. So do states have the power to adjudicate the citizenship of a person who purports to be a citizen of the state in question, so long as the state determines the person became a citizen at birth?

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    States keep birth certificates on file, which are documents conforming to state laws on birth certificates. I suspect that if the validity of a birth certificate were disputed, one of the state's courts would rule on the matter. Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 18:39
  • I wonder why you don't ask whether it has ever happened? Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 18:40
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    If it has happened, that would support the idea that the authority exists, especially if the determination were accepted by a federal appeals court or the US Supreme Court. Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 18:53
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    Doesn't this happen, in effect, every time Iowa issues a birth certificate? The decision to issue the certificate (or not) is made by the state, or by a local government under the state's authority. And the issuance of a birth certificate effectively determines the person to be a US citizen. Commented Aug 26, 2023 at 3:31
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    I don't think issuing a birth certificate is officially a citizenship decision. A small number of birth certificates are issued to people who are not citizens, such as children of diplomats or people born on aircraft over the high seas. A better argument is that registering a voter recognizes citizenship. Commented Aug 26, 2023 at 4:52

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The question conflates two issues.

1. Can a state agency or court resolve a question of federal law, such as whether someone is a U.S. citizen, that has not been previously adjudicated?

Yes.

This happens every day. A birth certificate is the usual means by which U.S. citizenship is determined. State driver's license bureaus are required to adjudicate citizenship under the RealID act, and state election administration agencies are required to adjudicate citizenship in connection with voter registration and voter eligibility issues. State Medicaid and welfare benefit agencies are often required by law to determine the U.S. citizenship of applicants for these government benefits.

State courts have concurrent jurisdiction with the federal courts to determine whether or not someone is a U.S. citizen, pursuant to federal law, at any given time. Indeed, with some very narrow exceptions, such as those related to the exclusive jurisdiction of the U.S. Supreme Court and related to intellectual property, state courts have concurrent jurisdiction with the federal courts on all questions of federal law. There is even at least one federal law (the Junk Fax law) that can only be enforced in state courts and cannot be considered in federal courts other than the U.S. Supreme Court.

2. What is state citizenship?

State citizenship is defined by the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which says:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens [...] of the State wherein they reside.

This U.S. Constitutional amendment was self-executing; no legislation by Congress was required to perfect this right. U S v. Lackey, 99 F. 952 (D.C. Ky. 1900), reversed on other grounds 107 F. 114.

One of the first U.S. Supreme Court cases to interpret this provision is called the Slaughter-House Cases, which stated in the pertinent part that:

The first section of the fourteenth article, to which our attention is more specially invited, opens with a definition of citizenship—not only citizenship of the United States, but citizenship of the States. No such definition was previously found in the Constitution, nor had any attempt been made to define it by act of Congress. It had been the occasion of much discussion in the courts, by the executive departments, and in the public journals. It had been said by eminent judges that no man was a citizen of the United States, except as he was a citizen of one of the States composing the Union. Those, therefore, who had been born and resided always in the District of Columbia or in the Territories, though within the United States, were not citizens. Whether this proposition was sound or not had never been judicially decided. But it had been held by this court, in the celebrated Dred Scott case, only a few years before the outbreak of the civil war, that a man of African descent, whether a slave or not, was not and could not be a citizen of a State or of the United States. This decision, while it met the condemnation of some of the ablest statesmen and constitutional lawyers of the country, had never been overruled; and if it was to be accepted as a constitutional limitation of the right of citizenship, then all the negro race who had recently been made freemen, were still, not only not citizens, but were incapable of becoming so by anything short of an amendment to the Constitution. To remove this difficulty primarily, and to establish a clear and comprehensive definition of citizenship which should declare what should constitute citizenship of the United States, and also citizenship of a State, the first clause of the first section was framed.

‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.’

The first observation we have to make on this clause is, that it puts at rest both the questions which we stated to have been the subject of differences of opinion. It declares that persons may be citizens of the United States without regard to their citizenship of a particular State, and it overturns the Dred Scott decision by making all persons born within the United States and subject to its jurisdiction citizens of the United States. That its main purpose was to establish the citizenship of the negro can admit of no doubt. The phrase, ‘subject to its jurisdiction’ was intended to exclude from its operation children of ministers, consuls, and citizens or subjects of foreign States born within the United States. The next observation is more important in view of the arguments of counsel in the present case. It is, that the distinction between citizenship of the United States and citizenship of a State is clearly recognized and established. Not only may a man be a citizen of the United States without being a citizen of a State, but an important element is necessary to convert the former into the latter. He must reside within the State to make him a citizen of it, but it is only necessary that he should be born or naturalized in the United States to be a citizen of the Union.

Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36, 72–74 (1872) (emphasis added; the language in italics is dicta, i.e. it was not necessary to resolve the case before the court, and was overruled in the U.S. Supreme Court decision of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898)). The "Indians not taxed" clause was abrogated by statute in 1924 when all Native Americans in the United States were made subject to federal income taxation.

Incidentally, residents of U.S. military bases abroad under exclusive U.S. jurisdiction, Thomas v. Lynch, 796 F.3d 535 (5th 2015), residents of American Samoa, Tuaua v. U.S., 788 F.3d 300 (D.C. Cir. 2015), and residents of the Philippines when it was a U.S. territory, Miller v. Christopher, 870 F.Supp. 1 (D.D.C. 1994), affirmed 523 U.S. 420, do not gain citizenship at birth in the United States by virtue of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, as these places don't count as part of the United States for purposes of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In order to be citizen of state, one must first be a United States citizen. Factor v. Pennington Press, Inc., 230 F.Supp. 906 (N.D. Ill. 1963). States are not allowed to vary this requirement.

States can establish their own residency requirements that differ from state citizenship for particular purposes, but state citizens are always U.S. citizens who reside in a state. Residence and citizenship are wholly different things within the meaning of the Constitution and the laws defining and regulating the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court of the United States. Steigleder v. McQuesten, 198 U.S. 141 (1905).

For U.S. constitutional purposes, "the State wherein they reside" has been determined to be equivalent to the common law concept of "domicile" (although easier to apply operational definitions for purposes like voter registration have been tolerated).

Although this clause declares that citizens of the United States are citizens of the states in which they reside, there may be a temporary residence in one state, with intent to return to another, which will not create citizenship in the former. Bradwell v. People of State of Illinois, 83 U.S. 130 (1872). See also, State v. Stevens, 99 A. 723 (N.H. 1916). One may reside temporarily in a state with the fixed intent of retaining an established domicile in another state and returning to that state without thereby acquiring citizenship in state of temporary residence despite language of this clause. Valentine v. Powers, 85 F.Supp. 732 (D. Neb. 1948).

States do not have any authority to vary that definition.

The 14th amendment contemplates two sources of citizenship, and two only: birth and naturalization; citizenship by naturalization can only be acquired by naturalization under the authority and in the forms of law; citizenship by birth is established by the mere fact of birth under the circumstances defined in the Constitution; every person born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, becomes at once a citizen of the United States, and needs no naturalization. U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898) (later case law, see, e.g., Runnett v. Shultz, 901 F.2d 782(9th Cir. 1990), has clarified that Congress may statutorily confer citizenship at birth based upon the citizenship of a person's parents, even though the 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship at birth only to people born in the United States, but the case law has not similarly authorized states to grant citizenship on any basis other than that found in the 14th Amendment.).

Citizenship in the United States is made independent of citizenship in a state, and citizenship in a state is a result of citizenship in the United States; so that a person born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to its jurisdiction, is, without reference to state constitutions or laws, entitled to all the privileges and immunities secured by the Constitution of the United States to citizens thereof. U.S. v. Hall, 26 F.Cas. 79 (Circuit Court S.D.Ala. 1871).

For example, a citizen of Texas was free to transfer her citizenship to Arkansas instantly, without necessity and simply from choice, on moving from Texas to Arkansas, and had the right to select her domicile for any reason that seemed sufficient to her. Paudler v. Paudler, 185 F.2d 901 (5th Cir. Tex. 1950), certiorari denied 341 U.S. 920. State law plays no part in that determination.

People who reside in the District of Columbia are not citizens of any state. District of Columbia v. Carter, 409 U.S. 418 (1973). This would not necessarily be true if states could define state citizenship as they saw fit.

Because this is the definition of state citizen, the state or country where someone is born is not determinative of their state citizenship. Anyone who is a U.S. citizen, regardless of where they were born, is a citizen of the state where they reside.

For what it is worth, however, the determination of whether someone is a state citizen or not isn't very important, because only a few legal rights hinge upon state citizenship, as opposed to U.S. citizenship or residency that is not state citizenship in the U.S. Constitutional sense.

No, I am asking if (e.g.) Iowa can adjudicate whether someone whose US citizenship has not been formally recognized (and not formally rejected either) by an agency of the US can determine that the person was a citizen at birth of Iowa, and by extension, of the US.

This is not how it works. The state of Iowa can adjudicate whether someone whose US citizenship has not been formally recognized (and not formally rejected either) by an agency of the U.S. is a citizens of the U.S. at birth or otherwise, by applying federal citizenship law.

If someone is not a U.S. citizen, they are not a citizen of the state of Iowa.

Once the state of Iowa determines that someone is a citizen of the U.S., the next step is for the state of Iowa to determine if that person resides in the state of Iowa. If they do, they are also a citizen of the state of Iowa. If they do not, then the person is a U.S. citizen but not a citizen of the state of Iowa.

Someone born in Iowa who is not a child of a diplomat not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States is a U.S. citizen. So is someone who is not born in Iowa who has a U.S. citizen mother. So is someone who is not born in Iowa who has a U.S. citizen father under circumstances that do not require a federal filing (e.g., when the father and mother are married and listed as parents on the birth certificate).

One can't become a naturalized citizen of the U.S. without a federal government adjudication in most cases.

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  • "State citizenship is defined by the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution:" The Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment doesn't "define" either US citizenship or state citizenship. It just says that certain people are citizens; but doesn't say that nobody else are citizens. (Obviously, not all US citizens are covered by it.)
    – user102008
    Commented Jan 30 at 15:49
  • @user102008 You are incorrect. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does define state citizenship. It also says that certain people are always U.S. citizens and allows Congress to broaden that definition.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 30 at 15:51
  • It does say that some people are citizens. You are incorrect that it mentions Congress -- the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment does not mention Congress. For something to be a "definition", it must be clear what is not included, or equivalently, that certain things are all that is included. The Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment does not do that, and therefore, it is not a "definition" of either US citizenship or state citizenship. It does not say that a US citizen who was not "born or naturalized in the United States" is or is not a state citizen.
    – user102008
    Commented Jan 30 at 15:59
  • @user102008 Naturalization is mentioned in the 14th Amendment and Congress determines who can be naturalized pursuant to Article I, Section 8. The citizenship clause says that certain people are always U.S. citizens and recognized that people can be naturalized citizen. It is also the definition of state citizenship. Find a case that says otherwise if you disagree.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 30 at 16:01
  • So that proves my point that it what you quoted is not a "definition", since it not complete. Also, none of those places say that Congress making someone a US citizen makes them a state citizen. And none of those places say that a state cannot declare someone a "state citizen" if they are not a US citizen. Cite a place in the Constitution that says otherwise if you believe otherwise.
    – user102008
    Commented Jan 30 at 16:06
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States do not generally talk about "state citizenship". Usually, qualifications for various things will instead be "US citizenship with residence in the state". To the extent that a state benefit is qualified on US citizenship (or on "state citizenship" if that means the same as US citizenship with residence in the state), a state could make its determination on whether the person is a US citizen for the purposes of that state benefit, but this determination is not binding on the federal government, and cannot be used as prima facie evidence of citizenship for federal purposes (e.g. for a US passport or in deportation proceedings). If proof of citizenship, or lack of citizenship, is later obtained from the federal government, that would presumably override the state's determination, since US citizenship is a matter of federal law.

If a new concept of "state citizenship" is defined by a state in a way which is not dependent on US citizenship, then the state is free to make its determination under that definition, and it cannot be overridden by the federal government. But again, this would not provide any federal benefits, like a US passport or protection from deportation.

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    State citizenship is defined by the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens [...] of the State wherein they reside." At least some states already had adopted this definition, e.g. in Massachusetts, under chapter 1 section 1 of the Massachusetts General Law, "All persons who are citizens of the United States and who are domiciled in this commonwealth are citizens thereof. " Commented Jan 30 at 13:31
  • @A.R.: Okay. Not sure what your point is or how it addresses the question or my answer. Also, the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment doesn't "define" either US citizenship or state citizenship. It just says that certain people are citizens; but doesn't say that nobody else are citizens. (Obviously, not all US citizens are covered by it.) My answer already covered if state citizenship means US citizenship with residence in the state, or if it means something else.
    – user102008
    Commented Jan 30 at 15:47
  • @user102008 You are incorrect.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 30 at 15:51

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